I’ve been reading the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles lately, and I am struck by how quickly and thoroughly the People of God slip from faithfulness to apostasy. A cursory survey of the history of heresy should be enough to convince ourselves that we, as Catholics, are not immune to the same temptations.
As rulers, sons don’t necessarily follow their fathers. Hezekiah was King fo Judah at the time when the northern tribes of Israel were conquered by Assyria and sent into exile. He was faithful and true to God. The scripture says of him, “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook” (2 Kings 18:5-7a).
How is it, then, that his son turned out so rotten? “Hezekiah rested with his fathers. And Manasseh his son succeeded him as king . . . He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nation s the Lord had driven out before the Israelites . . . He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshipped them . . . He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger” (2 Kings 20:21, 21:2, 3b, 6). Manasseh led the people of Judah astray. In doing these things, was he out in front of the people, or was he reflecting the will of his constituency? Does it matter? Is it really an excuse to say before God that you’re just giving the people what they want? Isn’t that the excuse that Aaron tried to give in building the golden calf?
The point that I’m drawing from all of this is two-fold. First, no matter how I live my life, my kids are going to have to make their own choices. While I can hope and pray that they grow up to be righteous adults, they might disappoint me and choose to swim in the cultural soup of the world. God will judge them; it’s out of my hands. Conversely, even though I might be a worm’s turd, my kids might turn out well, as Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah, did.
The second point that I’m drawing is that I can’t count on the prevailing culture to keep me honest. The fact that I live in an area that is predominantly Catholic doesn’t mean that I can assume that the cultural morals are always going to be based upon and informed by Catholic principles. Manasseh worshipped idols in the Jerusalem temple. We cannot assume that everything condoned by our local parish is spiritually good and healthy and pleasing to God. Rather, we must always return to the trustworthy sources: Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium.